Health Highlights: July 27, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

WHO Official Says 23 Million Need AIDS Drugs

The World Health Organization is on track to meet the goal of having 15 million HIV/AIDS patients worldwide taking life-saving drugs by 2015, and the next step is to aim to have 23 million people taking the drugs.

That was the message delivered by WHO's Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall at the International AIDS conference, the Associated Press reported.

The additional eight million people would include those who aren't yet as sick with AIDS but require drug treatment to reduce their chances of spreading HIV, such as people in high-risk populations and in relationships with healthy partners, and pregnant women who need to keep taking the drugs after their babies are born.

Countries need to expand HIV testing so they can start reaching these people, said Hirnschall, who noted that "now is not the time to be timid," the AP reported.

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London Air Pollution Worst in Six Years

A heat wave has caused air pollution in London to reach it highest level in six years, a situation that could affect athletes' performances at the Olympics.

Recent sunshine and low winds are "exactly the conditions that can bring summertime smog to London," the environmental experts from King's College London said in a statement Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

They launched a website that provides hourly quality updates on a street-by-street and Olympics venue-by-venue basis. London has the largest and most advanced air quality monitoring systems in Europe.

This week's warm weather in London is expected to be replaced by cold and rain over the weekend, the AP reported.

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Court Ruling Could Lead to Lower Drug Costs

A recent court decision could lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the common practice of big-name drug companies paying generic drug makers to keep competing products off the market for years.

On July 16, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the practice is anticompetitive on its face. That decision conflicts with at least three other federal circuit court rulings, The New York Times reported.

The opposing judgments could end up before the Supreme Court and its ruling could have a major effect on drug prices and health care costs.

If the Supreme Court ruled against the practice, brand-name drug makers would face lower profits while insurance companies, pharmacies and patients could benefit from the savings associated with increased competition in the drug market, The Times reported.

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CPSC Tries to Stop Sales of Buckyballs

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has filed an administrative complaint against New York-based Maxfield and Oberton in an effort to force the company to stop selling high-powered desktop magnetic toys called Buckyballs.

The product is meant for adults, but the CPSC says at least a dozen children have swallowed the magnets since 2009 and some of them have required surgery, the Associated Press reported.

Thursday's move was taken because the company refused to recall the product, according to the CPSC. The agency has persuaded about 10 retailers, including Amazon.com, to stop selling Buckyballs.

Craig Zucker, the founder of Maxfield and Oberton, said Buckyballs are marketed to people 14 and older and carry clear warning labels to keep them away from children. In a statement, the company called the CPSC's actions "unfair, unjust and un-American," the AP reported.

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New Public-Private Partnership Targets Health Care Fraud

In an effort to reduce tens of billion of dollars in losses to health care fraud, the Obama administration has announced a new large scale public-private partnership with state investigators and private insurers.

This cooperative effort "puts criminals on notice that we will find them and stop them," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Details of the partnership remain to be finalized, but could include sharing information on new fraud schemes as they appear, using computer analysis to detect emerging patterns of fraud, and analyzing claims data to identify scams.

It's estimated that fraud costs Medicare about $60 billion a year. This is the latest in a number of Obama administration efforts to stop it, the AP reported.

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Posted: July 2012


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